Culture

Alex Salmond and The Big Issue – unleashed at the Edinburgh Fringe

What happened when Big Issue vendors went to review Alex Salmond’s debut Fringe show...

(L-R) John Bird, founder of The Big Issue and Des Clarke of Capital Radio with Alex Salmond

After years at the forefront of Scottish politics, former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond has turned the tables, becoming chat show host and commentator during this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. By all accounts the SNP veteran has been relishing the limelight in his show, Alex Salmond: Unleashed. The Big Issue has been the production’s social enterprise not-for-profit partner, and vendors (as well as Big Issue competition winners) were invited along to two performances of the sell-out run this week to give their verdict of Eck’s new direction.

Every performance of Salmond’s run has been completely different – a mixture of comedy, music and chat with a variety of surprise guests each day. Salmond’s sofas have been graced by the likes of Brexit secretary, David Davis, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow and Hollywood actor Brian Cox. On Monday he was joined by Big Issue founder Lord John Bird, alongside popular Scottish comedian and radio DJ, Des Clarke.

As Salmond introduced his guests, he praised the work of The Big Issue and our founder’s lifelong campaign against poverty.

And the host was unfazed by heckling from our vendors in the front-row – sisters Fergie and Susie McIver – spending time with them afterwards, signing copies of The Big Issue for them to sell during the Fringe and gifting copies of his book.

In the foyer following the show, Fergie shared how she thought Salmond fared in the spotlight: “He was quite funny and the music was really nice.

“Alex Salmond’s a good performer – tell him to give up the politics and be a performer,” she added, before catching sight of the star and shouting him over.

“ALEX!”

Fergie repeated to Salmond her view that he should “stop with the politics and stay on the stage”, to which he he replied: “Thanks for coming, hen – now you make sure you read that copy of my book”.

Susie also enjoyed the show, in particular “hearing John Bird tell everyone about The Big Issue”. She said she had a great time meeting the former First Minister after the performance, even if he was a little hot under the collar: “I caught Alex Salmond’s tie, I took a photo with him and he gave me a kiss after – he was sweating so I told him he needs to go home and get dry!”

Yesterday (Tuesday), Salmond’s special guests were Scottish sport star Eilidh Doyle and pundit Alison Walker, and our two Big Issue vendors, Greg and George, who both sell the magazine on Edinburgh’s George Street, went along to give their views.

He was funnier than I thought he would be.

“It was quite good, and I thought Alex Salmond was quite comical,” said Greg. “He was definitely funnier than what I thought he would have been. I thought the band [The Carloways] was quite good and I’d hear some more from them.

“It was good to see that women’s sports is coming up a bit more in the world and I thought it was really good that Alex Salmond was helping promote it. Overall, not a bad way to spend an hour,” Greg added.

Alex would be an alright Big Issue seller.

George was a little tougher in his critique of the show: “It was a bit too nice… Alex Salmond came across very politely and well-spoken – very showbiz. Maybe he’s looking for a job with the BBC as a political commentator?

“When he was tearing into Theresa May, I guess that’s why people in Scotland are going to want to watch it. Now he’s not an MP he can sort of say what he likes but I thought he was going to say a bit more – I was hoping he’d say a bit more. I thought he was just going to get torn into everybody.

“He signed and sold some magazines for us – he was alright at it; he’d be an alright Big Issue seller.”

 

Words: Sophie Monaghan-Coombs

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